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open mind, empty stomach

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Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park is arguably Tasmania’s biggest attraction. The park’s Overland Track is considered to be one of the greatest walks on the planet. Conditions can be extreme even in summer and it is not advised to attempt the walk during the winter, especially by yourself without proper equipment. The situation tragically reminded me of Milford Sound. The Milford Track also ranks among the world’s best walks, but is closed during winter. I did a day trip to Milford Sound from Queenstown and had a great time, so decided to do the same for Cradle Mountain.

The tour setup was very similar to Milford Sound. The bus departed the city at about 8 am and returned at about 6 pm, with the drive accounting for 5-6 hours return. At $100 ASD, the price was just about the same as well. The tour is normally $120, but I was joined by Tina, a university student that rents a room in the house I stayed at in Launceston, so we got a discount. Cradle Mountain is known for being cloudy and rainy, but we lucked out and had a beautiful day.

The centerpiece of any day trip to Cradle Mountain is a walk around Dove Lake. In addition to circling the water, Tina and I also went up to Marion’s Lookout, or at least we thought we did. The guide said it was a demanding 3 hour return trip to the Lookout. I found it odd that I arrived there in less than 30 minutes and it turns out that the platform we thought was the lookout, was not the lookout. The view was still nice and I had my first encounter with a wombat on the way up!

In addition to the wombat and several wallabies (including one that looked either drunk or depressed), I also saw a duck billed platypus! It was a very small platypus that was busy trying to eat something from the bottom of the stream. I couldn’t get a good photograph because it kept to the edge of the water, partially concealed by bushes and had its head submerged. It was still awesome to see the only mammal that lays eggs in its natural habitat.

The walk around the lake was pretty and scenic. There was snow and ice in some spots as well as a few inclines, but it was still a fairly easy stroll. A rainbow even appeared just as I finished the loop around the lake! As nice as it was, it still didn’t “wow” me like Milford Sound had. Perhaps I’m just too spoiled when it comes to things like this?

I definitely enjoyed my day, but what I saw of Cradle Mountain didn’t impress me the way other places have. Seeing the platypus definitely earned the place some points and I’m still happy I went, but, for me, the experience didn’t quite live up to the hype. For what it’s worth, the other 15 people on the tour thought it was the most beautiful place they’d ever seen.

On the way back to Launceston, we made a stop in Sheffield, “The City of Murals.” In addition to the murals, this sleepy little town even had a marble store. I was rather excited to see an entire store devoted to the little glass balls, but, unfortunately, it was closed.

The tour was pretty touristy, giving us just over 3 hours of actual time in the park. This was my only real option for seeing Cradle Mountain and I’m happy I went for it. It’s definitely worth checking out Cradle Mountain when you visit Tasmania and I’d love to come back in another season and have a go at the Overland Track.

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